Statement from Tawna Barnett-Little (Muscogee Creek/Seminole)

First, I will identify who I am unlike the rest of these coward academics hiding behind anonymous online spaces.

Tanuce cv hocefkvt omen vm liketvt konepvlket on vm etvlwvt kvlicet os. Momen ocesvlke ecustet owis mon nokosvlke ecuste owis. Este-cate sofvckat owis.

My name is Tawna Little and I am a FULL-BLOOD – Muscogee Creek/Seminole woman (YES, I am enrolled/CDIB carrying) from the Skunk clan, and a daughter of the Bear clan. I was raised and still reside in my community; i’m a ceremonial practitioner and a language revitalizationist. My family has maintained strong ties and leadership roles in Muscogee ceremonial, church, and political life. I hold a degree in Native Studies from the University of Oklahoma.

I am not interested in entertaining silly online identity attacks that seem to consume your academic careers in order to make you feel personally more authenticated as Indigenous persons, HOWEVER, Andrea Smith is a long time dear friend of my family and your actions are beyond offensive and belittling to someone we deeply care about. Thus, I wish to lend my support to Andy by speaking truth while you all continue to act as bullies and process your own insecurities.

I want to point out that my family has long visited Cherokee ceremonial grounds (quite regularly during some seasons) to lend support in participation just as Cherokee ceremonial practitioners have long done the same during our Muscogee ceremonial dances. I have never seen any of these Andrea Smith-attackers in attendance at Cherokee ceremonies; none of them are Cherokee speakers nor are they ceremonial practitioners; most of these folks are of minimal blood quantum and look white. In fact, these very kind of identity police are who traditional ceremonial practitioners get a good laugh at.

I should also make a disclaimer here that I do not uphold blood-quantum, tribal enrollment and phenotype as authenticating markers of Indigenous identity; I am however very much aware that the only factor distinguishing Andrea Smith from her attackers is a tribal enrollment card. What else signifies these attackers as Indigenous? Who employed them as the authority on Cherokee identity? It certainly wasn’t the grass roots Cherokee persons with whom I fellowship. If I felt like participating in these kinds of colonial games instead of working to save my language from extinction and participating in my ceremonies in order to maintain the essence of my Muscogee identity, I would endeavor to call out all of these insecure “native” academics on their whiteness. Why do these attackers not speak their languages? Why weren’t they raised in traditional ceremonial ways? Why are they living far from their communities to pursue selfish academic positions? It’s because life is complicated! Moreover, historical realities are often ugly. For these same reasons I even find compassion for these hateful acting persons. Just because Andrea Smith’s ancestors did not enroll in the Cherokee Nation during the Dawes era does not mean she does not have the right to identify as Cherokee. It sounds as though you all are upholding Cherokee enrollment as the ultimate standard for Cherokee identity and the right to claim Cherokee identity. If so, that means you uphold an individual with a blood quantum of 1/4,096 (the last I heard it was the lowest recorded Cherokee Nation blood quantum, meaning the last full-blood in the family was 15 generations ago), who may have never even seen or interacted with another native person in their life, as somehow more legitimately Indigenous than an individual that grew up knowing she was Indigenous from oral tradition (but not enrolled) in her family and accepted a responsibility to engage social justice advocacy for Indigenous Peoples.

All academics have shortcomings and it amazes me that you choose to attack Andy’s identity as her shortcoming and take it to this level. That’s the best you could do in finding something to call her out on? How pitiful. Why not go after her scholarship, her arguments? Oh yeah, because they’re brilliant! And her work is used in both grass roots organizing spaces and academic settings. Testimonies of Indigenous female rape survivors have asserted Andy’s work to be healing and empowering. Andrea and her sister Justine have both been extraordinarily positive voices in my life as well as other members of my family. This also rings true during times of hardship when their words have been encouraging and they have been physically present in our lives…..oh, remember that I said i’m a FULL-BLOOD (black haired-brown skinned-Indian looking individual unlike the rest of these insecure-in-your-identity-academic-mixed-bloods who I would not have criticized until you decided to exercise identity policing) which means that Andrea does hang out with Native People, contrary to previous blogging claims that she does not hang around other Natives. Many others can attest to that as well.

As we say in Muscogee, “mistvlke fekcahke owet fullet owes” (they are going about in a jealous way). I guess if my academic scholarship was lacking, I might also develop jealousy toward Andrea Smith. So, attacking her identity on grounds of not having an enrollment card and “misrepresenting herself” is an easy target eaten up by non-grass roots Indigenous Peoples and is something that only mainstream whites and insecure Natives seem to care about. It is obvious that these attackers do not know Andrea and her personal family challenges, particularly those surrounding her lineage. Trying to survive in academia can be brutal in Native Studies arenas where everyone wants to be Indianer-than-thou. I am altogether compassionate toward her claim/misunderstanding about enrollment in the Cherokee Nation. That doesn’t dismiss her exceptional work, commitment to social justice and desire to end global oppression. Andrea does not claim to be a Cherokee cultural or language expert and these attackers evidently have fooled folks into thinking they are somehow culturally and linguistically superior to Andy in their Native identity. Wow, that’s a joke! Andrea has not used her Cherokee identity as a way to promote herself; rather, she identifies with what she was told her identity is growing up and she participates in social justice advocacy- for people other than herself. In fact, she went to law school to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Andrea has made INCREDIBLE personal sacrifices for her family and herself in order to fight for justice, and anyone that attempts to discredit her clearly does not get the whole picture. The virtues of my Muscogee People (vnokeckv, eyasketv, mehenwv, kvncvpkv) do not support this kind of hateful behavior. It sounds like most of these attackers are without traditional teachings from their respective nations; they have yet to learn how to live on this earth.

4 thoughts on “Statement from Tawna Barnett-Little (Muscogee Creek/Seminole)

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